Jan. 17, 2016 sermon
Since I was raised by a pastor/ biblical scholar, I grew up reading bedtime Bible stories for children. I found it very curious that the Bible stories are full of supernatural things happening to the characters. But I didn’t worry too much about whether they actually happened or not, while staying open-minded about the possibility. Another thing that I’ve always found curious is how so many Christians are obsessed with supernatural powers of God and Jesus. For example, in the church in Jerusalem where Jesus was supposedly buried, a lot of Christians come and touch the stone where Jesus was supposedly laid because they believe it has healing powers. Super powers and supernatural phenomena are fascinating, aren’t they? That’s why I like superhero movies.
But when I was called into ministry after living in a spiritual wilderness for a long time, I had an epiphany about what miracles are (“epiphany”, pun totally intended). I met God personally in my spiritual wilderness like Moses met God in his, and I heard God’s voice speaking to me. When I say this, we all know that it’s a metaphor and is not to be taken literally. Still keeping an open mind about supernatural miracles because these things do happen once in a blue moon, I realized that miracles usually happen in an ordinary way through ordinary things; the problem is, we can’t usually recognize them as miracles.
In today’s gospel story, Jesus performs a miracle that we usually know as his first miracle. But again, only according to the Gospel of John. The author of John’s gospel places this miracle story at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry so that his audience will know the extent of Jesus’ power, the leader and savior they are following. Take a look at verse 11; it says Jesus manifested his glory and his disciples believed in him because of it. One doesn’t want to follow a leader if one doesn’t have confidence in his or her power and skills.
Jesus goes to a wedding celebration with his mother and disciples. They run out of wine and his mother lets him know, to which he says, “It’s none of our business. Well, it’s not yet my time to reveal my power and glory anyway”. But his mother, trusting him, instructs the servants to assist him. How did the miracle of turning water into wine happen? He used servants and ordinary jars of water. It’s not like waving a magic wand and creating something out of nothing; even Cinderella’s fairy godmother used a pumpkin to make a coach!
Although he said it was not yet his time, his mother trusted that he would help, and he did! Another trivial knowledge; some scholars say that, it was the custom to bring gifts such as wine to a wedding party but probably Jesus came empty-handed because he was poor. So when Mary tells him about the wine running out, she is reminding him of the consequence of not fulfilling social expectations; “We ran out of wine because some of us didn’t bring any, as they are expected to!” But this is interesting trivia. What we need to remember today is that, one, according to John’s gospel Jesus revealed his power and glory at the beginning of his public ministry with an act of miracle so that his followers can believe in him, and two, he used ordinary people and ordinary objects to perform it. He used lowly servants and ordinary jars of water to create wine.
This is the truth about miracles. We may be too used to supernatural miracle stories from the Bible and supernatural powers in movies and books that are intended to entertain us that we don’t realize that miracles happen in ordinary things. Most of us have never experienced supernatural phenomena happening to us, I’m sure. But focus for a minute, and you will realize that this world and our lives are full of wonders (which is another word for “miracles”).
Those of you who are biological parents, think of it; you literally created human beings! Don’t you think it’s a miracle? It’s a miracle but it follows the law of nature; there is nothing supernatural about it. When I look at the mountains, forests, and the lakes in between, I realize that this is another miracle of God. What can create such beauty if not the miraculous power of God? When something bad happens to us that affects us in a great way but we can still muster up the courage and energy to carry on with our life, our family and friends who are our love and strength; I think having beloved people is also a miracle. Some of you know that I will be marrying two of my best friends here in Kimberley this summer. When I think about them, especially one of them who is closer to me, I feel that meeting your kindred spirit or soul mate is indeed a great miracle. All these that I mentioned don’t involve anything supernatural. See? Miracles don’t have to be supernatural phenomena!
As I mentioned last Sunday, we are just starting our journey with God in this Season of Epiphany. We started our journey by renewing our baptismal covenant with God. Today, we heard about the Son of God revealing his power and majesty through an act of miracle. Then let us continue our journey trusting God, in the knowledge that our God is powerful enough to guide us and protect us; after all, the authors of the gospels intended to reassure their audience by presenting the miracle stories. There were a lot of people during Jesus’ time who were called “sons of God” and performing miracles, so the gospel writers had to try harder to convince their people that Jesus was not one of the ordinary miracle workers. That’s why in the gospels, we see Jesus not only performing ordinary miracles, but defeating evil spirits (and of course, evil spirits declare him the Son of God when they leave in defeat). The image of Jesus fighting evil spirits makes him look like a superhero from one of my superhero movies. Hmm, Jesus the superhero fighting evil; he is so cool!
Let us go on our Christian journey in confidence because our guide is an invincible evil fighting superhero. Our Jesus is not only a powerful one who came from God, but he also empower us to be his followers. We need strength to resist evil in our life journey. We need the strength and courage to do what is right and love our neighbors with the love of God that we learned from Jesus. Let us bravely face all these challenges in our Christian life journey, trusting the power of Jesus. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and his teachings all through our journey, and follow him. Knowing that God’s wonders and miracles are revealed to us daily and in an ordinary way, let us start our journey by recognizing ordinary daily miracles in our lives. To be able to recognize ordinary miracles, we have to be spiritually tuned to God’s voice daily. If we do, we will realize that our lives are full of God’s miracles. What a wonderful journey we are taking, and how wonderful our guide is! So let us wish each other “bon voyage”, and encourage each other along the way. Again, peace be our journey. Amen.
Rev. Sunny Kim